What is atelectasis?

Atelectasis is a situation in which some part of the lung or the whole lung coincides thereby reducing its volume. This practically means that the lung does not fill with air as it should be. It can happen when something is pushing from outside the lungs or when something is obstructing the flow of air inside. The atelectasis can cause breathing problems. So the oxygenation of the patient’s blood may not be sufficient.

What are the symptoms of atelectasis?

Atelectasis does not always cause symptoms. However, if it does, may include the following:

  • Problems with breathing. The person may find it difficult to breathe or even be unable to inhale deeply.
  • The skin and lips appear blue. This may be an indirect sign that oxygen in the blood is not enough.

Is there a test for the diagnosis of atelectasis?

Yes. Your doctor will examine you clinically and will recommend you to do a chest radiograph. This can examination can show how much of the lung volume has been lost and where exactly this happens.

What is the treatment for atelectasis?

This may include the following:

  • Medications and other treatment for pneumonia or other illnesses that cause atelectasis.
  • Treatment to reduce the mucus of the airways and relieve the obstruction that mucus is causing. This includes medications, physical therapy and respiratory aids for cough and aspiration of bronchial secretions.
  • Other therapeutic measures. These may include:
  1. Oxygen. Administered through a mask placed on the face, or through small tubes that enter the nostrils of the nose.
  2. Devices that help keep the airway open. Example of such devices is the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.
  3. Surgery. If atelectasis is caused by something pressing on the lungs, eg a cyst or tumor, surgery may offer a solution for the problem.